Tonight, The LaRussa joins the immortals.
Stan, Lou, Gussie. Dean. Smith, Schoendienst, Slaughter. Boyer, Herzog, Sutter. Gibby, Busch, Robinson. And now # 10 goes up in the proverbial rafters; never to be worn again. The highest honor a team can bestow on an employee will be deployed and roar of Cardinal Nation will canonize Tony LaRussa as one of the high priests of baseball in a city religious about baseball.
LaRussa joined the Cardinals in 1996 after a dismal campaign in 1995 that saw the firing of Joe Torre and the replacement tactics of Mike Jorgensen. After years of languishing in the early 90s, the Cardinals had new ownership that wanted to make a statement that they were serious about restoring the luster to a franchise somewhat tarnished.
The bold moved paid dividends early (and often) as the Cardinals went from fourth to first place and touched off a 16 season run that netted 3 NL Pennants and 2 World Series wins. The latest, unbenownced to us, was a curtain call on a career that saw LaRussa end up only short of John McGraw and Connie Mack in MLB wins.
Love him. Hate him.You had an opinion on LaRussa.
But one thing is indisputable… the flop mopped manager won baseball games. And put the Cardinals back on the map as the preeminent National League franchise and often the epicenter of the baseball world.
As compelling as his maddening use of his bullpen was, it’s hard to remember a manager that navigated more turbulence off the field while proactively chasing championships. He endured 2 active player deaths, a humiliating DUI arrest, the passing of a broadcasting legend and readied a team for play to heal a city and country shaken by a terrorist attack on 9/11. Overarching his tenure was the unfolding performance enhancing drug era. His players were lauded for their feats then later turned on for their transgressions during it; LaRussa was there for all of it.
In short, LaRussa made baseball compelling in St. Louis again.
More than anything, that will be his legacy.You may not have been a huge fan.You may have been the hugest fan. Either way, he took the Cardinals from something that you did because there wasn’t much else to do in the summer in St. Louis to a national conversation that centered around our players and our team.
No other Cardinal will ever wear # 10 again on the field for the team other than LaRussa. When you step back and think about it, I don’t think there’s a more appropriate option.
LaRussa, like it or not, shaped your view of St. Louis, baseball and sport in general this last decade and a half.
Tonight, that legacy is cemented.